Southwest Children's  Literature

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Navajo: Visions and Voices Across the Mesa

Book Review:

Navajo: Visions and Voices Across the Mesa is a book of poems and paintings by Shonto Begay, a Diné (Navajo) author and illustrator who lives in Kayenta, Arizona. Mr. Begay was sent to a government boarding school when he was five. He was not permitted to speak Navajo and had his mouth washed out with soap if he did. When he came back home after 8th grade, things in the country and on the reservation were changing fast.

Mr. Begay wrote this book as a series of poems and paintings that describe the Navajo culture and way of life to outsiders. Using twenty poems, Mr. Begay begins by describing the spirituality of Diné tradition, then his memories of his past (like watching his mother weave), and finally, he tells about the community and rituals. Although each poem can be read separately, the poems are tied together by some common themes, such as...

In his book, Shonto Begay paints descriptions of his homeland and is able to say what he means through poetry. For readers on the Diné reservation: Will he offer poems that remind you of your own lives, or have things changed too much here since Mr. Begay grew up? For non-Diné readers: What would it be like to grow up on the mesa?

Let's read the poems and view the illustrations so we find out.

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